Chapter 7: Enjoyment of reading at age 8
When aged 8, children in GUS were invited to complete a short questionnaire as part of the wider data collection exercise. One of the questions included asked children how much they enjoyed reading. Children could indicate they liked it 'a lot', 'a bit', or 'not at all'.
Combining these data with that from the wider study, this section provides a detailed insight into differences in children's enjoyment of reading and the factors associated with it. It explores variations in level of enjoyment according to key social and demographic characteristics, as well as variations in other aspects of the child's life including their enjoyment of school and other activities. The relationship between exposure to reading in the early years - examined in detail in the previous two sections - and enjoyment of reading is also explored. These analyses seek to determine whether children who are read to more often in their early years are more likely to enjoy reading at age 8, and whether the relationship between early reading and later enjoyment is similar for children with different background characteristics.
7.2 Key findings
- At age 8, most (66%) children liked reading 'a lot', with around a quarter (24%) saying they liked it 'a bit', and one in ten not liking it.
- Girls were more likely to say they liked reading than boys (74% of girls liked reading 'a lot' compared with 58% of boys).
- Unsurprisingly, enjoyment of reading was more common among children who had a more positive attitude to school (always looked forward to going to school, never hated school, liked doing number work; liked doing sports and outside games and enjoyed learning) than amongst those had a negative attitude to school.
- After controlling for other factors, there was no relationship between frequency of early reading and enjoyment of reading at age 8. Children who read or were read to more frequently at ages 2 or 5 were not more likely to enjoy reading 'a lot' than those who read or were read to less frequently at those ages.
7.3 Differences in enjoyment of reading by socio-economic and school factors
At age 8, most (66%) of the cohort children said they liked reading 'a lot', with around a quarter (24%) saying they liked it 'a bit', and one in ten not liking it.
This varied with certain socio-economic characteristics. For example, enjoyment of reading (as indicated by liking it 'a lot') was higher among girls than boys (74% compared with 58%, Figure 7‑A).
Figure 7‑A Child's enjoyment of reading at age 8, by gender (%)
Unweighted base: BC1: n=4511.
However, no significant differences in enjoyment were found by child's ethnicity, parental level of education, maternal age at the child's birth, area deprivation or household income quintile. Considering 'not liking reading' on the other hand, shows some small differences by household income. Higher proportions of children in the lowest income groups than those in the highest income groups said they did not like reading (11-12% in quintiles one, two and three compared with 7% in quintiles four and five). There was no statistically significant variation by either parental level of education or area deprivation for 'not liking reading'. A breakdown of enjoyment of reading at age 8 by parental level of education, household income and area deprivation is shown in Table 7.1.
Table 7.1 Child's enjoyment of reading, by parental level of education, household income and area deprivation
|Like reading a lot||Like reading a bit||Don't like reading||Unweighted bases|
|Parental level of education|
|Lower standard grades or VQs||%||68||20||12||122|
|Upper level SGs or intermediate VQs||%||62||24||14||535|
|Higher grades and upper level VQs||%||67||23||11||1097|
|Degree level academic or VQs||%||66||26||8||1484|
|2 nd quintile||%||65||25||11||552|
|3 rd quintile||%||65||24||11||625|
|4 th quintile||%||67||25||7||603|
|Level of area deprivation ( SIMD)|
|Most deprived quintile||%||69||20||11||552|
|Least deprived quintile||%||66||26||8||771|
Reading enjoyment at age 8 also varied depending on attitudes to school. In particular, and as may be expected, enjoyment of reading was more common among children who had a more positive attitude to school (always looked forward to going to school, never hated school, liked doing number work; liked doing sports and outside games and enjoyed learning) than amongst those had a negative attitude to school.
7.4 Frequency of early reading and enjoyment of reading at age 8
The data in Table 7.2 show how reading enjoyment at age 8 varies with frequency of reading at ages 10 months through to 6 years. The relationship varies slightly at each age point. Up to age 5, the only age at which the relationship between early reading frequency and later enjoyment of reading is significant is at age 2. In contrast, frequency of reading at ages 5 and 6 are both associated with later enjoyment of reading. For example, 66% of children who were read to on four or more days a week at age 5 liked reading 'a lot' compared with 58% who were read to less often at age 5.
Table 7.2 Frequency of early reading, by enjoyment of reading at age 8
|Like reading a lot||Like reading a bit||Don't like reading||Unweighted bases|
|Four or more days/wk||66||24||10||2783|
|Four or more days/wk||66||24||10||2836|
|Four or more days/wk||66||24||10||2819|
|Four or more days/wk||66||24||10||2739|
|Four or more days/wk||68||23||9||2601|
|Frequency reading score across age 2-6 (see note below):||%|
Scores were assigned based on answers to these frequency questions (0 to 7 days)
Scores across the 5 ages were summed to give a total score
Scores of 0-19 were classified as 'low'; scores of 20 to 29 were classified as 'medium'; scores of 30 to 35 were classified as 'high'.
Taking an overall frequency of reading into account (based on frequency of reading at ages 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 - the last row of the table) shows that those who score higher - indicating being read to more often from birth to age 6 - are more likely to say they enjoy reading 'a lot' at age 8 than those who are read to less often. 67% of the high score group said they enjoyed reading 'a lot' at age 8 compared with 58% of the low score group.
It should be noted that with only one measure of enjoyment of reading, the direction of the relationship between frequency of reading and enjoyment cannot be precisely determined. It is possible that early enjoyment of reading (for which we do not have a measure) influenced the frequency at which the child read or was read to in the early years rather than the frequency of early reading leading to enjoyment.
Thus a relationship was found between frequency of reading at ages 2, 5 and 6 - and enjoyment of reading at age 8: those children who were read to more often at these ages were more likely than those who read less often to enjoy reading at age 8. However, earlier analysis in this report showed very clearly that children in more advantaged circumstances tended to be read to more often in their early years than those in disadvantaged circumstance. As such, the relationship between frequent early reading and later enjoyment may be a reflection of this underlying social bias in early reading habits - that is, the apparent relationship between early reading frequency and later enjoyment of reading may be a result of both factors being associated with socio-economic status rather than them being independently associated with each other. To test this, multivariable regression analysis was used to explore the relationship between reading at age 2 and reading at age 5 with enjoyment of reading at age 8 whilst controlling for other factors, such as the child's sex and parental level of education.
The multivariable analysis found no independent association between frequent early reading, either at age 2 or age 5, and later enjoyment of reading after controlling for other factors.  In other words, being read to more often at these ages was not independently related to a greater likelihood of enjoying reading at age 8. In addition, as with the bivariate analysis noted earlier, parental level of education was not found to be associated with enjoyment of reading. Child's sex was associated with enjoyment of reading with the odds of boys enjoying reading 'a lot' lower than for girls.